To be in the right place at the right time is crucial for all animals. Endogenous clocks help animals to anticipate periodic changes in their environment, as many aspects show circadian rhythmicity. Animals need to adjust to the time of day at which food resources or mating partners are available, or at which predators are not a threat. The ability of animals to remember important events varying in place and time is thought to lead to evolutionary advantages. For the genetically tractable model organism Drosophila melanogaster it could be shown that flies are capable of spatial memories as well as time of day associated odor memories (time-odor memories) and that, more in general learning and memory can be modulated by the circadian clock.
The ultimate goal of my doctoral project is to understand how temporal information coming from the endogenous clock is incorporated into memories. Therefore I will investigate how temporal information is incorporated into time-odor memories. At the same time I would like to investigate the integration of temporal information in spatial memories and see whether Drosophila can express time-place memories or if spatial memories are expressed differently throughout the day. These kinds of spatial memories have been shown in other insects (ants and bees) as well as vertebrates (mice and rats), however Drosophila with its genetic toolbox will allow to describe the underlying neuronal structures of time-place memories (and time dependent place memories) in detail for the first time.